Saturday, February 03, 2007

“Let’s Hear It for the Boys”

The early part of New York Fashion Week (in other words…Friday) is traditionally dedicated to the boys, with menswear shows taking front stage. Having said that…I really loved John Bartlett’s 10 AM show…(which I guess you can say, has sort of ‘replaced’ Kenneth Cole in terms of filling that early morning time slot on Friday, the first official day of New York Fashion Week). Other parallels and comparisons would be that the press for both has been handled by true pro Deborah Hughes -- but that is pretty much where the similarities end.

Whereas Kenneth Cole had always been a major ‘event’ (in terms of size and ambitious presentation), John’s was not a large scaled show but one that was relatively low keyed, perfect for his low keyed collection. It was not held in the sprawling Tent venue but the more intimate Salon. And it was only menswear; it included no women’s wear at all.

The tightly edited line was a delight from start to finish, ‘signature’, vintage John in terms of its emphasis on intelligent and refined tailoring, its nod to the classics and to the preppy side of things (well, the designer is a Harvard Grad after all). The collection was marked by its streamlined and narrow silhouette, pleasing neutral palette (camel, ivory, forest green, loden, chocolate brown, charcoal gray, black, ivory and a touch of red to enliven it all), and fabulous knitwear, which ‘ruled’. The sweaters (particularly the graphic color blocked turtlenecks) were not only fabulous, but I could see myself wearing them as well. (The color block idea was also translated into some wonderful tailored blazers by the way). John seems to have a ‘thing’ for layering and for cables (there were not only cabled and mini cabled sweaters and vests, but one army green trench coat had cabled epaulets and matching cabled sleeve tabs).

While Duckie Brown is also somewhat ‘classic’ based, Steven Cox and Daniel Silver, the duo behind the label, is a bit more playful, experimental, and irreverent, dubbing their line “The Essential Duckie Brown Fall/Winter 2007 Collection”. The predominantly dark, somber collection of three piece suits, two button jackets, herringbone coats, leather motorcycle jackets, plaid sport jackets, brushed checked shirts, etc. was enlivened with surprise hits of color in the form of accessories: a ‘safety’ orange hand knit hat, jade green wig, mustard gloves, ‘lemoncello’ (chartreuse) sweater. Gauntlets and leather ‘grocery bags’ in black and red were other novel ways they see their guy dressing this fall.

Among ideas explored (to a varying degree of success) were the use of black cashmere leggings, a (rather unflattering) ‘low crotch trouser’, and ‘three arm sweater’. The combination of a traditional sport jacket and an anorak was labeled, “anarkacket”. The duo also found a way to make a common hoodie, evening perfect (if one so desires) by adding white beads in the image of an abstract face. One note, this show had the most comfortable seats thus far. Instead of bleechers or metal seats, the usual Bryant Park Tent fare was replaced with comfy and tall black canvas and wood director’s chairs. So everyone in the audience felt like a director (or captain) for a few minutes.

If you were to tell me that a show which included celebrity models (Paula Zahn, Angela Bassett, Phylicia Rashad, Lauren Hutton, Kim Cattrall, Kimberly Guilfoyle Villency, Helena Christensen, Katharine McPhee, Jane Krakowski among others), walking down a long red runway wearing red eveningwear from design names like Calvin Klein, Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta, Narciso Rodriguez, Lyn Devon, and had First Lady Laura Bush sitting in the front row, I would assume it was make for an interesting event. Unfortunately, the Heart Truth Red Dress Collection (with a noble cause at its hard) was a bit lackluster all the same. The red dresses selected were rather ordinary and in a few unfortunate cases, proved unflattering. The hands down highlight and the crowd pleaser (other than energetic Betsey Johnson cavorting down the runway in a red pouf dress of her own design wearing a new platinum bob) was tennis legend Billie Jean King who hammed it up and jaunted down the runway wearing a red pantsuit by Gustavo Cadile accessorized with Adidas sneakers (to the pulsating beat of Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’ of course).

Yeohlee did a complete about face from the way she showed last season (when her venue of choice was an expansive, unfinished, raw space in an office building not far from the Bryant Park Tents). This season, she opted for the chic, elegant, tranquility of a high ceiling’d grand room of the W New York Hotel on Lexington and 49th street. It was an urbane and sophisticated respite from the Tents. Everyone was given a choice of bottled water or Pomegranate/White peach tea which was delicious and more importantly, the clothes that followed were some of Yeohlee’s best, displaying her enormous talent and ability to play with shape, cut, structure, form, simplicity.

For fall 2007, Yeohlee was inspired by the undulating forms and structural genius of Antoni Gaudi (and his “desire to go back to basics” and to create architecture based on the criteria of function”). Yeohlee’s signature and rigorous color palette of gray, black, ivory, taupe, was worked to best advantage in weighty and substantial fabrics like wool felt and wool angora, focusing on the idea of “enveloping” the wearer and creating versatile pieces that can be changed and manipulated by the wearer. This was exemplified by the very first outfit out: a grey stretch wool felt ‘ovoid’ jacket worn with lean and elongated grey stretch wool felt empire trousers and a white cotton ‘femme Mao’ shirt (which appeared throughout). Several coats were extraordinary in their deceiving simplicity: notably the grey stretch wool felt low bustle coat (which had a slightly curved hem), the grey stretch wool felt ellipse coatdress, and a black double face wool angora belted Gaudi coat that was high waisted and featured ivory insets on the side.

Just a note. One of the most heartwarming trends this season is the move by the fashion industry to help speed the downtown recovery process by using spaces in the financial center and near Ground Zero to stage shows and parties. Not only is this making smart use of remarkable often historic spaces or those with incomparable views, like the top of 7 World Trade Center, but it’s the best way to help Lower Manhattan get back on track.

-Marlyn Kirschner

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